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Salt: An Anti-Depressant?

Yesterday, a public release by The University of Iowa reported new findings by Psychologist Kim Johnson and colleagues, found that when rats are deficient in salt, they shy away from activities they normally enjoy. According to the public release, Johnson and colleagues reviewed others’ research on the reasons behind salt appetite, along with the findings of their own experiments in rats with salt, published an article in the July issue of the journal Physiology & Behavior.

“Things that normally would be pleasurable for rats didn’t elicit the same degree of relish, which leads us to believe that a salt deficit and the craving associated with it can induce one of the key symptoms associated with depression,” the public release quoted what Johnson said.

Johnson and colleagues’ findings suggest that salt ingestion might improve our mood, which could help to explain why some of us consume too much salt, even when we know it could harm our health.  

Excess salt is bad for high blood pressure and fatal for people with kidney function impairments. The National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia has set an ‘Adequate Intake’ of about 1.15-2.3 grams of salt per day with a ‘Suggested Dietary Target’ of no more than 4 grams per day for adults.

Changing a habit doesn’t happen overnight! If you are already habituated to the taste of very salty food, and finding it hard to follow a reduced-salt diet, making small changes slowly may help to smooth the process of reducing salt intake. We can “train” our taste buds slowly by gradually cutting down our salt intake.

The following tips can help you to achieve this:

  • Include mainly fresh food in your diet.
  • Avoid having preserved food, such as highly processed meats and pickles.
  • Limit the intake of snacks containing too much salt, such as potato crisps, prawn crackers, and strongly flavoured crackers (such as cheesy and barbecue flavours).
  • Use more herbs and spices in cooking instead of high salt flavouring and sources.
  • Remove the salt shaker from the dining table.
  • Recognize different things that are high in salt (such as garlic salt, chicken salt, and MSG) and their low-salt alternatives to allow you to make better choices.

For more information on salt and health, please visit http://www.saltmatters.org. If you are not sure about your current salt intake but have been suffering from high blood pressure or kidney problems, see a dietitian for an assessment and advice.

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